1 “And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the
first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me,
saying,” In the eleventh year, etc. June, B.C. 586. Two months all but
six days had passed since the utterance of ch.30:20-26, when
Ezekiel was moved to expand his prediction of the downfall
parable which is partly a replica of these in chapters 17 and 19:1-14, and
which also finds a parallel in Daniel 4:10-14.
2 “Son of
man, speak unto Pharaoh king of
Whom art thou like in thy greatness?” The parable is addressed, not to Pharaoh
only, but to his multitude i.e., as in ch. 30:4, for his auxiliary forces. It opens with
one of the customary formulae of an Eastern apologue (Mark 4:30),
intended to sharpen the curiosity and win the attention of the prophet’s
hearers or readers. It is significant that the question is repeated at the close
of the parable, as if the prophet had left the interpretation to his readers, as
our Lord does in saying, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew
the Assyrian was a cedar in
and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top
was among the thick boughs.” Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon.
The Hebrew text, as rendered in all versions and interpreted by most
commentators, gives us, in the form of the parable of the cedar, the history of
the Assyrian empire in its glory and its fall. That had passed away in spite of its
greatness, and so should
“Thou art the man!” in Nathan’s interpretation of his parable (II Samuel 12:7),
or the mutato nominee de te fabula, narratur of the Roman satirist.
Some recent commentators, however, either like Ewald, taking the Hebrew
word for, Assyrian” as describing a particular kind of cedar or fir tree, or,
like Comill and amend, adopting a conjectural emendation of the text
which actually gives that meaning (Tasshur for Asshur), refer the whole
parable primarily to
10, 18 are addressed to the living representative of a great monarchy, and
not to a power that has already passed away into the Hades of departed
glory. The former view seems to me the more tenable of the two, and I
therefore adopt it throughout the chapter. It may be admitted, however,
that the inner meaning of the parable at times breaks through the outward
imagery, as was indeed to be expected, the prophet seeking to apply his
apologue even before he had completed it. The “cedar
already met us as the symbol of s kingdom, in ch. 17:2. The
shadowing shroud may be noted as a specially vivid picture of the
peculiar foliage of the cedar rendered with singular felicity. His top was
among the thick boughs; better, clouds, as in the margin of the Revised
Version. (compare vs. 10, 14).
4 “The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her
rivers running round about his plants, and sent her little rivers unto
all the trees of the field. 5 Therefore his height was exalted above all the
trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches
became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth.”
The waters made him great. The scenery is hardly that of
careful system of irrigation. The cedar grew close to the river itself; the
other trees of the field were watered only by the smaller channels, and so
were inferior to it in the fullness of their growth. (For the general imagery,
compare 17:5; Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8; Numbers 24:6.)
6 “All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under
his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young,
and under his shadow dwelt all great nations. 7 Thus was he fair in
his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great waters.”
All the fowls of heaven as in ch. 17:23; Matthew 13:32, was the natural symbol
of the fact that all the neighboring nations owned the
and were sheltered by her protection. In the great nation we have the
parable passing into its interpretation.
The Root and the Waters (v. 7)
Ø The root supports the tree. It is the foundation. Unless the root is deep
and strong the tree will fall, blown over by the hurricane or swept away
by the flood. Our life needs a root, a foundation.
Ø The root brings nourishment to the tree. It sucks in moisture from the
earth and draws the rich juices of the soil up into the plant. When the
roots are cut the tree must wither and die. The child’s Christmas-tree
looks green for the short season of festivities, but according to a
common custom, being cut off without a proper root, it cannot live.
There are souls that have no root in themselves (Matthew 13:21).
They can only endure for a while. We must find supplies of spiritual
nourishment if we are to persevere unto everlasting life.
Ø The root lies low. The lordly branches of the cedar wave in the air and
toss themselves proudly against the sky, but they could not thus thrive
without the lowly root. Souls thrive on their humbler experiences. They
grow strong in humility and trust.
Ø The root is unseen. It lies in dark underground regions. He is but a
shallow being whose every experience lies on the surface. “The secret of
the Lord is with them that fear Him” (Psalm 25:14). The tree will die if
the root be laid bare to the sun. Spiritual experience should be decently
covered, not dragged to the light and made a matter of common talk. Let
the leaves and fruit be seen; keep the root in the dark.
Ø The root must press down to deep sources of supply. If the water be far
from the surface, the root must go after it. “The well is deep” (John
4:11); then the water will be all the more cool and refreshing. It is
good to press down to the deeper experiences of the Christian life.
It needs water. Trees will not grow on the
moisture will bring vegetation. On the rare occasion of rain falling in the
desert a sudden greenness appears on the sand; but the minute vegetable
growth disappears as quickly as it comes, for the moisture rapidly
evaporates in the heated air. SOULS NEED THE LIVING WATER!
They need these waters because, like trees, they are alive. The statue does
not droop in the noonday sun, because it is of stone, dead stone. There
are statuesque souls that seem to thrive without any spiritual supplies,
but they have no vitality in them. They are too stolid to faint. Fiery
souls pine and wither when deprived of living water.
Ø It must be within reach of water. It is nearly useless for the water to fall
on the leaves if the root is not reached, but when the root is in moisture,
though the leaves are covered with dust and sadly need cleansing showers,
the tree will still live. We can bear heat and drought in the world if the
soul’s hidden roots are SUPPLIED BY DIVINE GRACE! But we do
not merely require superficial refreshment; we need such deep soul-
supplies as shall PENETRATE TO THE ROOTS OF OUR BEING!
For this purpose the roots must be near the water. Cattle can go down
to the brooks and drink, but trees must be planted in moist soil. It is
customary in the East to cut channels for water deflected from larger
streams, that this may run among the roots of trees. The best trees
grow by rivers of water (Psalm 1:3). (This is God’s desire for us! –
CY – 2014) Souls must be within reach of Divine supplies. It is not
sufficient that God is gracious and that Christ can give of the water
of life. We must be near the water ourselves. There must be personal
appropriation. This is only possible by means of that spiritual
neighborhood which is sympathy. The use of “means of grace”:
o Christian fellowship,
o meditation on Scripture, etc.
helps to rouse that sympathy, and so to bring the roots near to
the great waters.
cedars in the
were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his
branches; nor any tree in the
his beauty. 9 I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches:
so that all the trees of
The cedars in the garden of God. As in ch.28:13, the thoughts of the prophet
dwell on the picture of
envied him. The trees specially chosen for comparison are:
Vulgate and the Septuagint of Genesis 30:37, gives the “plane,”
which held a high place in the admiration of Greek and Roman writers.
Of this we have a special instance in the story of Xerxes, who decorated a plane
tree near the Meander with ornaments of gold (Herod., 7:31; ‘AElicon,’ 5:14;
also comp. Ecclus. 24:14; Virg., ‘Georg.,’ 4:146; Cicero, ‘De Ont.,’ 1:7,
The Great Cedar (vs. 1-9)
imagery to express splendor. In this respect it could be taken as a symbol
of a great triumphant empire such as that of
declared that there is a splendor of this world. We are not to be surprised
when we see the wicked flourishing like a green bay tree (Psalm 37:35).
He may even attain to the proportions of the cedar of Lebanon.
Note some of the characteristics of this magnificence.
Size. This is what first strikes one in viewing the cedar.
big empire. Worldly success may be large.
Ø Altitude. The cedar is not only broad-spreading. It towers high. There is
an unchecked pride in worldly success.
Ø Persistency. The cedar is green in winter. By clever devices
unscrupulous people may escape many of the troubles of the true
servants of God.
Ø Fragrance. It cannot be denied that there is a certain fascination in
visible excellence of spiritual goodness. “Nor any tree in the garden of the
Lord was like unto him in his beauty.” The reasons for this should be
considered, lest we be disappointed and confounded.
Ø The impressiveness of the external. The cedar bulks largely before the
eye of an observer, while the vine seems to creep feebly among the
rocks or round its much-needed support. Yet it is the vine that fields
refreshing fruit. There is a striking aspect in worldly success. Spiritual
achievements do not arrest attention in the same way, because they
are spiritual. Yet God looks not to worldly greatness, but to spiritual
Ø Unscrupulousness. Men who trample on conscience take short cuts to
success. It is not surprising that they outbid the conscientious in the
market of the world’s wares.
Ø Want of restraint. The cedar is unpruned. It grows in wild, rank
luxuriance on the unfrequented slopes of
garden of the Lord are carefully pruned, “Whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6).
ITSELF. “The waters made him great,” If the waters were dried up, the
proud tree would droop and die. Proud men glory in their own resources.
But no one can be strong and continue in vigor without receiving supplies
from without. The mind must be fed with fresh knowledge, as the body
with fresh food. Moreover, the success that a man seems to create for
himself is largely due to favorable circumstances. If the water did not run
by the root of the tree, the tree would not flourish in its magnificent state.
Therefore the pride of self-sufficiency is FOUNDED ON AN ERROR, and
he who ignores his dependence on help from without will one day find that
that help is cut off and he left to wither in despair. Men who will not
acknowledge God are yet daily recipients of his bounty. While they lift
their heads in worldly self-satisfaction, He is still mercifully watering their
roots and giving the good things on which they build their pride.
Ø This fact should teach humility.
Ø It should excite gratitude.
Ø It should cause fear in negligent self-sufficiency.
Ø It should lead to trust in God rather than in superficial worldly
A great nation enjoying prosperity and wielding influence IS ESPECIALLY
BOUND TO REMEMBER FROM WHENCE ITS POWER IS DERIVED
(something that the
2014) and to cultivate the conviction and sense of responsibility for the use made
of gifts and influence entrusted to it. FROM GOD ALL COMES, and TO
GOD THE ACCOUNT MUST BE RENDERED!
10 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast lifted up
thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick
boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height; 11 I have therefore
delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall
surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness.”
Because thou hast lifted up thyself. The second and third persons are curiously
mixed; probably the former was in the nature of a warning addressed to the
King of Egypt, while the latter continues the parable of
the history of
For boughs read clouds, as in v. 3. Ezekiel writes as with the feeling which led
Solon to note that the loftiest trees are those which are most exposed to the
strokes of the thunderbolts of Zeus (Herod., 7:10). The Assyrian’s heart was
“lifted up with pride” (Isaiah 10:5), and therefore he was delivered to the
mighty one of the nations; sc. to Nebuchadnezzar.
12“And strangers, the terrible of the nations, have cut him off, and
have left him: upon the mountains and in all the valleys his
branches are fallen, and his boughs are broken by all the rivers of
the land; and all the people of the earth are gone down from his
shadow, and have left him.” Strangers, the terrible of the nations. We note
the recurrence of the phrase of ch 30:11, as pointing, here as there, to
the Chaldean invaders. The branches of the tree were broken, the people of
the earth no longer dwelt under its shadow (Daniel 4:11).
13 “Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the
beasts of the field shall be upon his branches:” Upon his ruin. The prophet,
as it were, corrects his imagery. The birds and beasts are still there, but instead
of dwelling in the boughs, they (vultures and owls, jackals and hyenas) hover
and creep as over the carcass of the dead, decaying trunk.
14 “To the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves
for their height, neither shoot up their top among the thick boughs,
neither their trees stand up in their height, all that drink water: for
they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in
the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit.”
To the end that none, etc. With a characteristic amplitude of
style, Ezekiel preaches the great lesson of the mutability of earthly
greatness. This was the lesson that the history of
taught the nations of the earth, and it was just that lesson that they refused
to learn. They are all delivered to death. The scenery of the parable
the first stroke of the imagery afterwards more fully developed in
The Lesson for All Nations (v. 14)
Doubtless the immediate aim of the downfall of such a
has respect to the people and their rulers, upon whom the judgment comes.
But there is a universal lesson intended for the benefit of all peoples
throughout all time.
UTTERED BY HIS SERVANTS. His law-givers, such as Moses; His
prophets, such as Ezekiel; His priests and scribes, such as Ezra, have
messages of instruction, encouragement, warning (as the case may be),
FOR ALL MANKIND IN EVERY AGE! And God summons the
children of men to give heed to His servants when they utter their
messages, prefacing them with the assertion, “Thus saith the Lord.”
ESPECIALLY BY THE EVENTS OF HISTORY. In such catastrophes as
the downfall of Assyria, as the siege of
Ruler of mankind speaks to His subjects with an authoritative and
unmistakable voice. Facts embody principles. Historical incidents
elucidate moral laws. Judgments enforce commands.
LESSONS. It might be expected that those upon whom the message of the
herald produces no impression would be roused from their apathy by the
stirring incidents of political change and national disaster. But, as a matter
of fact, multitudes are unaffected even by the downfall of a city, the
revolution of a government, the displacement of a dynasty, the transference
of the balance of power among the nations. Is not this in accordance with
Christ’s own words, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will
they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead?” (Luke 16:31)
LESSONS. They who give heed to Divine counsels, who profit by Divine
admonitions, deliver their soul in the day of trouble and temptation. But
they who hear unmoved, incredulous, unresponsive, the solemn and faithful
appeals of God, uttered as with a voice of thunder in the events that befall
the nations of mankind, by their conduct aggravate their guilt and pen their
LESSONS, WITH THE PROPER FRUITS OF SUCH ATTENTION IN
REPENTANCE AND OBEDIENCE. The parable was spoken, the
providential interposition was recounted, to the end that none of all the
trees by the waters exalt themselves. “He that hath an ear, let him hear.”
Pride Humiliated (vs. 10-14)
The proud cedar is laid low.
gives warning for all ages. Magnificence does not secure protection.
Many things contribute to the excitement of this passion.
Ø The perception of the success. No man can thrive in a worldly way
without perceiving the fact.
Ø The consciousness of power. The greatest success is that to which a
person attains by his own efforts. When he puts forth energy and
finds it fruitful, he is naturally tempted to think much of himself.
Ø The attraction of the superficial. This worldly success is but a shallow
growth. But lying all on the surface, it is very obvious to the eye and
appears to be much more important than it really is.
Ø The flattery of others. Directly a man is successful a host of flatterers
arise about, him, some greedily expecting crumbs from his table, others
slavishly adoring his worldly greatness. Now, flattery accepted makes
SIGHT OF GOD.
Ø It is false. The success is not so glorious a thing as the proud man
imagines it to be. Moreover, it is not purely created by the man
who attains to it. He takes many advantages that are given to him
Ø It is ungrateful. The gifts of Heaven are held as though their owner
were under no obligation to Him who sent them.
Ø It is impenitent. The proud man will not admit his faults. He attempts
to hide his sin under his success.
It is selfish. Proud
glorification of self, too often at the expense of others. Pride
Ø It is worldly. This pride is simply concerned with earthly success. It
shuts out all contemplation of the spiritual and the eternal. Thus it
beclouds the view of heaven and destroys the reverence that should
be felt FOR GOD! It lowers the soul while it exalts self-esteem.
(One of the main goals of godless education in
promotion of self-esteem! CY – 2014)
cedar has lifted himself up in height, God has delivered him into the
hands of the mighty one.
Ø This is a Divine judgment. God is higher than the highest. He has
power over the greatest. No pride can assert itself successfully in
face of His wrath. At a touch from the hand of God the grandest
pretensions crumble to dust. Empires topple to the earth at a
glance from the Almighty.
Ø This is brought about through the direct working of pride. It acts
inwardly on the proud man and compasses his ruin. The height and
breadth of the majestic cedar make it a prey to the whirlwind. The
tall tree attracts the lightning. The rich man is waylaid by thieves,
who neglect the poor man and so leave him in safety. The successful
man is an object of envy. But pride increases the danger tenfold.
It destroys sympathy and excites animosity. It also throws a man off
his guard, making him think himself safe from attack or strong to
defend himself. The false sense of security which it induces lays a
snare for the man who harbors it. Our safety lies in the opposite
o in humility,
o confession of sin, and
o trust in the pardoning, protecting grace of God.
15 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when he went down to the
grave I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I
restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and
fainted for him.” I covered the deep for him. The face of the whole world of
nature is painted by the prophet as sharing in the awe and terror of that
waters failed in their channels, the trees (all that drink water) shuddered.
They formed part, as it were, of THE PAGEANTRY OF WOE at the
funeral of the fallen kingdom. It is as if the prophet felt, in all its intensity,
what we have learned to call the sympathy of nature with the sorrows of
humanity. It would, perhaps, be over-literal to press details; but the picture,
in one of itsfeatures at least,
suggests a failure of the inundation of the
like that indicated in ch.30:12.
16“I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him
down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees
be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.” Shall be comforted, etc.
The Dante-like imagination of the prophet points the contrasts between the
impression made by the fall of
and on those that had already perished. The former mourn and shake with
fear, for it is a warning to them that THEIR TURN MAY ALSO COME!
On the other hand, the
in Sheol — shall be “comforted” with the thought that yet another kingdom
mightier than they has fallen as they fell (compare ch. 32:17-32; Isaiah 14:4-20,
where the thought is elaborately expanded).
17 “They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain
with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his
shadow in the midst of the heathen.” They that were his arm. The words
point to the allies, in the first instance of Assyria, and secondly
The last words of the verse present a striking parallel to Lamentations 4:20.
18 “To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the
of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword. This is
Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD.”
To whom art thou thus like, etc.? As in v. 10, the prophet
passes from the past to the present, from the third person to the second,
and as it were says to Hophra, “Thou art the man! all that I have said of
midst of thin uncircumcised (see note on ch. 28:10). As a matter of fact,
the Egyptians practiced circumcision, and Ezekiel must be thought
of as using the term as simply an epithet of scorn.
The Disappearance of
The downfall of
shock that this event produces among the nations is likened to the shaking
of neighboring trees when the cedar is laid low. The cedar disappears, as
lies prone on the ground. It pictures it sinking into the earth and passing
of sight, as it supposes the trees of
striking idea of the old
like an enchanted garden that sinks at the magician’s wand, and leaves only
a desolate wilderness on its site — seems to be referred to by Ezekiel as a
prevalent popular notion.
was expelled from the garden, but the garden itself was not laid waste or
removed. On the contrary, flaming swords kept man from reentering its
coveted precincts. But we see no garden of Eden. Geographers search in
vain for its situation on the map. The old
destroyed by the Flood! – CY – 2014). This is not the only charm of the
world’s childhood that has passed away. Primitive innocence has disappeared.
The unfading flowers and unblighted fruit of the
vanished from off the earth. The fresh strong imagination of the world’s
childhood has passed away. Our later age produces no ‘Iliad.’
descended into the earth will never rise again. Beneath the ground the
miner finds vast remains of primeval forests. These
HAVE BECOME COALFIELDS! (Below is a tree trunk dug up
in a coal mine in Stearns,
Never again can they be green and fruitful gardens. Primitive innocence
can never be restored. The child-mind, once lost, cannot be had back again.
There are irreparable losses.
is created by Christ. (“…we according to His promise, look for new
heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness!” II Peter
grass. The heavenly is more safe, more fruitful, more beautiful. Yet, though
it is heavenly, i.e. in its origin and in its character, it is for the earth — it is
planted in this world, and it is to be enjoyed in the present life. “The
THE FUTURE. The New Testament promises a millennium. In our weary
disappointments we are tempted to quench the hope of that glorious future.
But if the rule and truth of Christ is to spread among all men, the blessed
time must come. Then, indeed, the dead
despised in the splendor of the reign of Christ.
promised it for the crucified robber. “Today shalt thou be with me in
of earth descend. But the spirits of Christ’s people ascend. They do not go
down to the grave with their bodies, and their
BUT ABOVE! Heaven
is the eternal
“There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers.”
The Spectacle of Fallen Greatness (vs. 10-18)
This very beautiful parable is suggestive of many things. The latter verses
of the chapter bring the Divine meaning into full view. By the fact of the
prophecy itself, we are reminded of:
of imagining that it is invulnerable and irremovable. The strong kingdom
says, “What power will touch me to hurt me? ‘ The strong man says,
“What misfortune will overtake, what enemy will prevail against me?”
(“Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever,
and their dwelling places to all generations;” - Psalm 49:11). It is in
the very nature of human exaltation to become foolishly assured of
its own security, and to defy the assaults of time and change.
(vs. 1-9), and to reflect upon the utter humiliation to which she had been
condemned in the retributive providence of God. We may now learn of
above the others, like this parabolic cedar (v. 5) above the trees of the
garden, and yet be uncrowned, be leveled to the very dust. And not only
the lofty nation, but the ancient family, the proud dynasty, the titled and
wealthy individual. (It is
alarming how much
my lifetime, especially the last twenty years. – CY – 2014)
kingdom or “power” of any kind will very long outlive its purity, its
virtue, its simplicity. Two things determine its doom.
Ø God will punish its pride (see vs. 10-11, 18).
Ø Iniquity begets strife, folly, inward corruption, weakness; and
THIS MUST END, in time, in DISASTER and RUIN! The
seeds of death are already sown when power, either in the
aggregate or in the individual man, gives way to
iniquity. Without any extraordinary means, by God letting His
righteous laws do their constant work, such a one is “driven
away for his wickedness” (v. 11). And the end of evil is
nakedness and desertion, emptiness and misery (v. 12).
Incidental truths are here portrayed, viz.
people of the land have gone from his shade, and have left him.” There are
noble souls that will cleave to the sinking cause or to the failing man just
because it is sinking, because he is failing. But their name is not legion;
these are not the rule, but the exception. When the day of decadence
comes, and the hour when the house is likely to fall, then expect those who
have lived in the shadow of it to leave it to its fate. Nay, there will be found
many of those who in the day of its strength enjoyed its hospitality that on
the night of its adversity will find themselves comfortable seats upon its
ruins (v. 13). (Something to contemplate – CY – 2014). We have another
BECOMING THE OBJECT OF GENERAL COMPASSION. (v. 15.)
Once it was the province of the great power to pity the necessitous and to
stretch forth its strong hand of help and healing; now it lies prostrate and is
itself the object of universal commiseration. “And none so poor to do it
Ø Let human greatness beware. It is high and uplifted in the sight
of men; but beware lest its heart be lifted up in arrogance and in
self-confidence; for, if that be so, or if it be allowing evil to creep
into any cracks of its walls, it will call down the condemnation
of Heaven, and, in time, IT WILL MEET ITS DOOM! Where
other prostrate powers lie, where the humblest and
commonest are stretched, “in the midst of the children of men,”
“delivered to death” (v. 14), there shall it also be found, down
Ø Let the holy humble-hearted be filled with a wise contentment. How
much better than the greatness which is humiliated is the lowliness
which is BLESSED AND CROWNED — blessed with the benediction
of God and man, crowned with the glory to which righteousness
conducts AND IN WHICH IT ENDS!
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